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Uncommon sense - The downside of a preoccupation with happiness

2023-03-10  Karlos Naimwhaka

Uncommon sense - The downside of a preoccupation with happiness

Happiness is something that most people desire, and many of us strive to achieve. We are continuously flooded with messages about the significance of happiness, and how to achieve it. This preoccupation with happiness has even, on its own, created a multi-billion-dollar industry of writers, bloggers, vloggers, podcasts and gurus. This has led to happiness becoming the most pursued for most of humanity, if not all.

The pursuit of happiness, as a sole and primary goal, can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is essential to develop positive emotions and find meaning in life. On the other hand, the pressure to be happy all the time can be overwhelming and even counterproductive. History has shown that the more people focus on being happy, the less happy they tend to be. The reason for this is that contrary to popular belief, happiness is not something that can be forced or pursued directly. It is a by-product of a life well-lived, characterised by meaning, purpose and positive relationships.

Preoccupation with the achievement of happiness can also lead to detachment. When we are preoccupied with our own happiness, we may neglect our relationships with others. Research has shown that social connection is one of the most significant predictors of well-being. When we prioritise our own happiness over our relationships with others, we risk becoming disconnected and lonely.

One more of the negative consequences of a preoccupation with happiness is that it can lead to unrealistic expectations. When we believe that we should be happy all the time, we set ourselves up for disappointment and frustration. Life is full of ups and downs, and it is normal to intermittently experience both positive and negative emotions. However, if we are constantly always striving for happiness, we may look at undesirable emotions as a failure or a weakness. This can lead to a vicious cycle of negative self-talk and a sense of inadequacy.

Furthermore, the pressure to be happy all the time can be emotionally draining and stressful. When we believe that we should always be happy, we may feel guilty or ashamed when we experience negative emotions. This can lead to a sense of shame, and a hesitancy to share our struggles with others. This pressure can also be exhausting, leading to burnout and a sense of cynicism. So, as an alternative, instead of striving for happiness, we can draw our focus towards developing a sense of meaning and purpose in life. People who have a sense of purpose tend to be happier and more fulfilled. Because it is this sense of purpose that provides a basis for our lives, giving us direction and motivation.

Furthermore, since we are naturally social beings, we can focus on building positive relationships with others. Social connection with others is essential for our well-being, and it is something that we can cultivate through regular contact with friends and family. We can also seek out opportunities to connect with others through community service, volunteering or joining clubs or organisations.

To overcome a preoccupation with happiness and its pitfalls, we can learn to accept our emotions, both positive and negative. We can accept that life is full of ups and downs, and it is normal to experience both pleasant and unpleasant emotions. Instead of trying to suppress negative emotions or force us to be happy all the time, we can learn to accept our emotions, and find healthy ways to cope with them. This might include talking to a trusted friend or family member, practising mindfulness or meditation, or seeking professional help if necessary. We can also convert negative emotions into fuel that can motivate us into self-improvement ,and become the best versions of ourselves.


Uncommon Sense is published in the New Era with contributions from Karlos Naimhwaka.

2023-03-10  Karlos Naimwhaka

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